Migraine – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


Migraine is a headache that attacks the person affected. Often only strong painkillers help. It is therefore all the more important that migraine patients understand their illness and prevent the pain attacks as well as possible.

Migraine is a common neurological disorder that manifests itself as a seizure-like headache that occurs at irregular intervals. Migraine usually occurs as a hemiplegic headache with accompanying symptoms such as nausea, loss of appetite, and sensitivity to light.

The frequency of occurrence varies greatly: some sufferers experience such an attack only once or twice a year, others suffer more than once a month. The attacks last from a few hours to several days, during which time only a darkened room and strong medication can help.

Physical activity often has a soothing effect on other types of headache, but in migraine, any movement aggravates the pain. A special form of migraine is also characterized by an aura, impaired vision, and other signs that usually appear as harbingers before the actual attack begins.


Tension headaches occur without accompanying symptoms. For example, the person affected is not nauseous or dizzy. “In particular, this headache does not increase during physical exertion,” says the expert. How long tension headaches last varies: sometimes they resolve after a short time, but they can also last for days, especially under stress.

The symptoms of migraine are also clearly recognizable, as they are very characteristic:

  • The headache is usually hemiplegic.
  • However, there are also rare cases in which both sides are affected.
  • The headache often starts from the neck or behind one eye and radiates from there to one half of the skull and the temple.


It is not always easy to distinguish migraine from other headaches. In particular, the symptoms of tension headaches are similar to those of migraines. Nevertheless, there are some criteria for differentiation.


When a migraine attack intensifies, the pain is usually felt as throbbing or pulsating. Typical accompanying symptoms are sensitivity to light, noise, nausea and, for some sufferers, vomiting.

A migraine attack usually lasts between half a day and three days. Shorter attacks sometimes occur in children. Those affected are often no longer able to go about their daily lives and need to rest until the attack subsides. Around eight percent of men and 15 percent of women suffer from migraines occasionally.

About 15 percent of migraine patients get a so-called aura before the migraine headache. They experience neurological symptoms. “These include flicker vision, a one-sided, ascending tingling sensation in one arm or leg that can reach the face, a word-finding disorder and very rarely weakness or clumsiness in one half of the body,” says the expert. An aura does not have to occur with every seizure in patients.

But it doesn’t matter whether you suffer from headaches or migraines. Both types of pain are treatable and alleviation of your pain is possible!

How a migraine attack works


A migraine attack often goes through four phases. First of all, it announces itself through increased irritability, loss of appetite, or ravenous appetite. In patients who suffer from migraine with aura, neurological symptoms appear in the second phase. In the third phase, unilateral pulsating migraine headaches occur.

These can increase over a period of several hours. The headaches are often accompanied by sensitivity to light and nausea. During the regression phase, the symptoms finally subside slowly. During this time, the affected persons are usually very tired and exhausted, so that this phase can last until the following day.


The first symptoms of an attack of migraine with aura can start a few days before the headache, but sometimes only a few minutes before. Paralysis, balance, and speech disorders as well as double vision or flickering are characteristic symptoms of aura.

In addition to these signs, the patient also experiences the indications of normal migraine, namely mood swings, sleep disorders, fatigue, and sensitivity to light and sound. After the aura, the pain typical of migraine sets in. Usually, however, people suffering from migraine with aura do not get the clues by the typical features every time but are sometimes attacked directly by the pain.


The sensory disturbances that occur in the aura can also be attributed to a stroke based on the symptoms. As a precaution, you should call a doctor, because the treatment of this disorder involves every moment.

On the other hand, if you are already used to the symptoms of the aura and can identify them early enough, you still have the possibility of prevention: Take your migraine medication and do relaxation exercises, this will loosen the muscles and alleviate the pain. In some cases, the migraine attack can even be prevented by taking precautionary measures.


Anyone who has migraines only during menstruation suffers from so-called menstrual migraines. Only five percent of all migraine patients are affected.

Causes of menstrual migraine unclear

What exactly causes migraine is not clear. If it occurs during menstruation, the rapid drop in hormone levels during this time could be responsible. In most cases, headaches begin about two days before the start of bleeding and continue for up to two days after menstruation.

Whether messenger substances in the brain also have an influence on menstrual migraine has not yet been researched. A possible connection between the headaches and the so-called premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which causes severe mood swings shortly before menstruation, is also not ruled out.

Migraine treatment during menstruation

As with all migraine attacks, a preventive administration of magnesium is recommended for patients who suffer from headaches during menstruation. If the pain does occur, it can be treated with special medication as described in detail below. Treatment with hormones, on the other hand, has shown little promise of success in the past.


1. Which painkillers help with migraines?

During a migraine attack, the pain is so severe that most people affected resort to painkillers. In mild cases, over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol can sometimes help. However, the attacks can be very severe, so that patients have to rely on prescription drugs. Either stronger painkillers or triptans are used.

Triptans were developed specifically to treat migraines. They constrict the vessels in the brain and inhibit the release of certain messenger substances. However, triptans do not help everyone, so some people are more likely to use ibuprofen or paracetamol.

In addition, drugs to combat nausea are sometimes necessary – proven active ingredients here are metoclopramide or dimenhydrinate. Medicinal plants such as celandine, angelica root, or chamomile can also help with migraine-induced nausea.

2. Rest is especially important!

Basically, rest is the most important thing for most people who suffer from migraine attacks. Most people withdraw into a dark, quiet room and lie down because every movement hurts and you are extremely sensitive to light and noise. Warmth is very uncomfortable for most people, but a cool pack or an ice pack on the temples provides relief.

3.Alternative healing methods: running against migraine.

Runaway your headaches! According to a study by the German Migraine and Headache Society (DMKG) at the University Hospital in Kiel, sport can reduce headaches and migraines. After 10 weeks of training, the test persons reported 17 percent fewer migraine attacks and a reduction in duration of 22 percent. And the walkers were also able to combat headaches with the help of sport. The reason for the positive effect of running on headaches is the accelerated breakdown of hormones that cause stress.

4. Can Botox help with migraines?

The nerve poison Botox became known for its effects on aesthetic medicine. When injected into the forehead, Botox causes paralysis of the muscles located there. It has now been proven that this form of forced relaxation can reduce the frequency of pain attacks in migraine patients. Right next to the forehead muscle there is a nerve that can be irritated by the muscles. If this is the cause of your migraine, then eliminating this irritation can reduce the pain for up to six months. Some patients who used Botox for aesthetic reasons discovered the effect. Now the effect has also been scientifically proven. The active ingredient Botox is thus approved as a drug for chronic migraines.

5. A piercing that is supposed to help with Migraine.

Patients often reach for any straw. One of them could be this: This is supposed to work exactly like acupuncture and stimulate the Aku point in the ear cartilage, which in the teachings of acupuncture is essentially involved in the relief of acute headaches. Unfortunately, scientifically based studies are still lacking and even doctors are skeptical about whether body jewelry can really be effective against migraines.

6. Will there be a migraine vaccination soon?

Migraine patients can also have hope in pharmaceutical research. Currently, the “European Medicines Agency” has also approved an active substance (Erenumab) for migraines, which acts similarly to a vaccine. The active ingredient blocks a certain messenger substance and is thus intended to intervene directly in the mechanism of a migraine attack and stop it before it even occurs.

It has been established that a certain inflammatory substance is released in many patients during a seizure. This messenger substance is abbreviated as CGRP. Among other things, it causes the skin in the blood vessels in the head to become inflamed and dilate so that patients feel every pulse wave as a painful throbbing sound during a seizure. The researchers hope that if they succeed in blocking this messenger substance, an attack will not occur in the first place. So far the study situation looks good. However, the vaccination will not be able to help all migraine patients. CGRP is only one of the substances that play a role in an attack.

Effective prevention of migraine

According to the experts, anyone suffering from migraine attacks should above all prevent the attacks and not rely on painkillers or rely on the migraine vaccination mentioned above. People who are prone to migraines have a brain that is very sensitive to stimuli, that’s why it’s important to leave enough room for relaxation, to pay attention to your own strength, and to live a regular daily rhythm. “Knowledge and adapted behavior are the basis for successful treatment”.


But what else can you do to prevent headaches? Non-drug treatments are the first and foremost preventive measures for tension headaches and migraines. In the long term, patients do not escape the migraine trap with painkillers, but through an adapted daily routine. Often there are foods that trigger migraine attacks, which those affected should avoid in any case. A frequent trigger for migraine attacks is the consumption of food and beverages containing histamine and tyramine such as coffee, red wine, chocolate, cheese, and citrus fruits.


The stress level of those affected should also be reduced. It is not always possible to avoid the stress triggers – if you have a family or are in the middle of your professional life, you will always be confronted with stressful situations. However, the stress level can be reduced by other measures: It is possible, for example, to plan an hour’s time for yourself every day, during which you can do sports or pursue other hobbies. Regular walks or hikes have also been shown to reduce stress levels.

Relaxation methods such as Jacobsen’s Progressive Muscle

Relaxation or autogenic training is very effective. “If you have a good command of such exercises, you should incorporate them into your daily routine for a few minutes every day.

A special case of migraine during pregnancy

Expectant mothers who suffer from migraines have a big problem: not all (pain) medications that they normally take for migraines are also recommended for pregnant women. Migraine is therefore even more difficult to treat during pregnancy than usual. In order not to endanger the fetus, drug treatment is only possible to a very limited extent.

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